11 Aug 2010

Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid meteor shower is spawned by the Comet Swift-Tuttle. As it orbits the Sun, this big "dirty snowball" sheds tiny grains of rock and dust. Over time, the particles spread out along the comet's orbital path. Earth flies through this path every August, sweeping up some of the dust grains. They plunge into our atmosphere at more than a hundred thousand miles an hour and vaporize as the streaks of light, known as meteors.

Most of the meteors are faint - you need to get away from city lights to see them. But a few can be bright enough to see from just about anywhere. They leave glowing trails that are visible for several seconds.

The Perseids will be at their best late tomorrow night, 12th Aug although a few  can be visible for a few days before and after the peak. At their peak, you might see a few dozen meteors per hour, And the Moon sets by mid-evening, so it'll leave dark skies for the shower.

The meteors all appear to "rain" into the sky from the direction of the constellation Perseus -- hence the name "Perseids." But the meteors can streak across any part of the sky, so you don't have to look toward Perseus to see them. Just find a dark but safe viewing location, and then watch the sky for the fireworks, so be at the ready with those Binocs.

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